The Detroit Red Wings were coming off a loss at home the night before when they rolled into Buffalo on Sunday. The Sabres hadn’t played since Thursday and had the chance to take advantage of a tired hockey club. They got off to the start they wanted, but were unable to capitalize on a golden opportunity.
Cody Hodgson scored 7:47 into the first period, but the Red Wings came back to score the next three as Detroit defeated Buffalo 3-1 at First Niagara Center.
Darren Helm, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson scored for Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson made 21 saves for Detroit.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 31 shots.
“Did we have an opportunity? Yes, we did. That’s three games in a row now where I thought we had a pretty good start,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. “Then we just don’t seem to be consistent with our play. Shift after shift, we have lapses and we do things that are characteristics of losing.”
Hodgson scored after accepting a pass from Drew Stafford. Hodgson took the puck from the side of the net, waited for a sprawling Gustavsson to go down and then tucked it in past him.
Hodgson is now tied for the team lead in goals with eight.
For the third game in a row, the Sabres opened the scoring, but they haven’t been able to earn points in any of those three games. They also skated into the dressing room with a lead after one period for the second time this season – and the second straight game.
“You have to make it count in this League. You can’t just be satisfied with a little glimmer of what we feel is the right way to play,” Miller said. We have to not teams let back into games. We’ve taken a lot of penalties in those games, too. It’s going to be a common theme and we’ve got to just be smarter. ”
After the game, Nolan praised Miller’s play and talked about how the team needs to be able to play a full 60-minute game.
“The only consistency we’ve had some far, I think, is our goaltending. He gives us a chance all the time. We kind of shoot ourselves in the foot,” Nolan said. “They get momentum, we look like we’re tired. I think it’s a state of mind. We just gotta change a little bit of things moving forward. I know it’s frustrating. In order to get, you can’t blame and point fingers all the time. We have to collectively work on this thing together.”
Detroit came out in the second period and tied the game right away. Thirty seconds into the period, Helm scored his fifth goal of the season.
Sabres captain Steve Ott attempted a penalty shot at the 9:39 mark of the second period, but his backhand was denied by Gustavsson. His penalty shot move was similar to the one he made on his initial rush, but on the penalty shot attempt, he lost control and Gustavsson was able to get a piece of his skate on it.
“That’s something I really wish we would’ve gotten though because we’re definitely lacking in the scoring department and it would’ve been nice to have,” Ott said.
Myers took a cross-checking penalty with 8:47 left in regulation. Thirty seconds later, Franzen scored the eventual game-winning goal to make it 3-1. The Sabres had just killed off a penalty to Christian Ehrhoff minutes earlier, and the Red Wings special teams finally connected with Myers in the box.
Miller’s brother Drew plays for Detroit, so the Sabres goaltender said he’s very familiar with how good the Red Wings’ power play can be. The Detroit power play is currently ranked seventh in the League.
“They love their power play and they feel like it gives them life. They feel like when they have the puck, they have control. They gain confidence from it,” Miller said.
While Nolan said after the game that he felt it was a tough call against Myers, especially in a tie game, Myers took full responsibility for the play.
“I’d like that one back,” Myers said. “It was a shot coming from the point and whether I think he sold it or not, I can’t put myself in that situation with my stick.”
Penalties have gotten the Sabres into trouble the past few games. Staying out of the box is an area the entire team knows they need to commit to.
“It’s just something we have to clean up that’s for sure. It’s going to cost us games like it did again tonight,” Ott said.
Alfredsson capitalized on a strong forecheck by Franzen to pot the empty-net goal that made it 3-1 with 48.2 seconds
“We just have to be patient,” Nolan said. “There’s going to come that day, hopefully it’s sooner than later that we do get that we do get that first one with the same kind of start that we have. And then we get that second and then momentum might change. There’s certain moments in seasons that things actually start changing. We haven’t hit that yet and I know it’ very frustrating.”
The Sabres debuted their new alternate jerseys that feature gold as the primary color. Buffalo’s next game is at home Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens.